The first season of House of the Dragon ended on a maddening cliffhanger this past Sunday, with a devastating tragedy that will surely send shockwaves across the land of Westeros and plunge the realm into an infamous civil war known in George R.R. Martin’s writings as the “Dance of the Dragons.”
I have loved House of the Dragon from the very first episode, even though I wasn’t particularly enamored of House Targaryen in Game of Thrones (#TeamStark all the way). However, Princess Rhaenyra quickly became one of my favorite characters in the franchise, and I’ve been rooting for her to sit on the Iron Throne. (Also, I’ve already started a Rhaenyra themed cosplay to take to my local con next year.)
Unfortunately, there’s also been a bit of a civil war within the fantasy fandom itself this fall, as HBO’s House of the Dragon and Amazon’s Rings of Power (both prequels, interestingly) have competed for viewer attention. The discussion, as online debate often does, turned ugly, which is a shame, because I think there’s a lot of great, thought-provoking conversations to be had comparing these two franchises. Of course, you can be a fan of both shows, and I’ve personally enjoyed both.
However, House of the Dragon is definitely my favorite of the two, due to its richer character development, layered history, and more confident plotting. Rings of Power does have a lot of intriguing elements, and I hope it will blossom into something truly great by the end. And hopefully House of the Dragon can stick its landing with a little more finesse than Game of Thrones did. 😉
I’ve heard some disappointment that there haven’t been more epic battles and dragon vs. dragon duels in House of the Dragon, but honestly, as cool as the battle scenes in GOT were, my favorite part was always the complex characters and their political maneuvering. House of the Dragon is all about slowly-building tensions and simmering rivalries, and the careful build-up is going to make the eventual war more impactful to watch.
Although GOT didn’t always do right by its female characters, I’ve been really impressed by HOTD’s nuance. Yes, there is violence and trauma committed against female characters, but HOTD does a much better job portraying those moments with sensitivity. There are some traumatic childbirth scenes that end in death because in medieval times childbirth was traumatic and women did lose their lives, royal and commoner alike (it can still be life-threatening today).
Women like Rhaenyra have to fight a difficult battle to be respected as a leader in Westeros. She and Alicent could have been powerful allies, but the men in Alicent’s life (her father and even her husband) manipulate her into playing the role that is expected of her. She’s willing to sacrifice everything to put her son Aegon on the throne, even though she herself would be a better monarch.
Let’s also take a moment to appreciate Rhaenys. Hollywood does not provide nearly enough starring roles for older female actors, and I enjoy seeing Rhaenys handle the game of Westerosi politics with skill and wit. The Iron Throne should have been hers from the beginning, but she puts that slight against her aside to support a fellow woman – Rhaenyra – knowing that if Rhaenyra is able to hold the Iron Throne, it will bring hope and possibility to the women across Westeros.
My only real complaint is that we apparently have to wait TWO YEARS for the next season, which feels like forever, but it will hopefully be worth the wait.